“Please stay here so I can go get my cousin, and we can leave,” Ally* ’18 told her friend, yelling so that she could be heard over the music that was loudly pulsing in their ears.
Ally was out clubbing with her friend and cousin, and although she stayed sober, her friend had gotten more drunk than Ally realized.
Ally sat her friend down and left to go look for her cousin, but when she got back, her friend was gone. Her mind started to race with terrifying hypotheticals, she said.
“I was scared for her well-being,” Ally said. “I was scared she was going to [get] hurt, or [that] she had drifted off and had no idea where she was going. She was in such a vulnerable state that anything could have happened.”
In the end, Ally found her friend safe in the hotel room they had rented for her birthday celebration, but she said the experience forced her to acknowledge the severe consequences of clubbing.
“The experience was scary because it was one of those wild situations that we only hear about, so having it actually happen [made me realize] people are mean and selfish out there,” Ally said. “In a club, people only think about themselves. I have seen many people walk past a girl getting hit on by a guy who knew she was way too out of it.”
Underage drinking leads to increased vulnerability and an increased risk of physical or sexual assault, according to the organization Drinkaware.
For Charlie* ’18, the risk of clubbing comes from using a fake ID, he said.
In the years since Charlie has started clubbing in Los Angeles, bouncers have caught him using a fake ID a few times, but he has never gotten in trouble with the police, he said. Regardless, Charlie said the threat of legal trouble has led him to go clubbing less frequently than he previously did.
“In L.A., clubbing almost becomes a serious thing where you have to watch yourself the whole time,” Charlie said. “It’s so risky in L.A. to use a fake ID, and when you’re already accepted into college, what’s the point of blowing that?”
Since Charlie is 18 years old, however, he is legally allowed in clubs in Mexico, where the drinking age is 18. As a result, Charlie now goes clubbing often when he travels to Mexico.
While Charlie understands the greater risk in clubbing, he said he still enjoys going because it offers him an exciting opportunity to feel like an adult.
“When you go clubbing, you’re out with a bunch of older people, going up to bars without getting carded and ordering whatever you want,” Charlie said. “You just feel really grown up, and that’s fun. You experience it, and you say, ‘alright, I’m not at a high school party anymore.’”
The desire to feel like an adult is common among teenagers, but that desire can also result in reckless and hazardous situations, Counselor Luba Bek said.
“It’s a trademark of adolescence to be rebellious, to push the limits and to act without abandon,” Bek said. “If there are substances involved, the danger is that the lack of impulse control in adolescents’ brains is enhanced by imbibing or by using drugs. [Teenagers] don’t know what they’re doing, plus the desire to appear more adult can really push kids into some very tricky situations. It could be anything from illegal activity to kids putting themselves in very iffy sexual situations, unwanted encounters where you feel that you’re not going to play according to your age and you’re going to play it cool.”
With this tendency in mind, Bek also said that she thinks high school parties are safer than clubbing, since high school parties solely consist of students.
“When you go to a school party, you are with your peers,” Bek said. “When you go clubbing, you’re with people who are adults, and you behave accordingly. Even in high school, you know that one year makes such a big difference developmentally in your experience, in your outlook on the world, in how much you allow yourself to do. We’re talking about adults who are out of college compared with high school kids who are stuck in a Harvard-Westlake bubble with no knowledge of how the world operates. This is the world of pretending, and the more you are with people where you don’t belong, the more you have to pretend to make sure they accept you.”
Liz* ’19, however, said she enjoys clubbing because the people in the club do not know who she is. She said she finds the anonymity freeing, and it provides her with an appreciated break from the preconceived notions her peers have about her.
“The club is usually pretty dark, people usually aren’t very sober and there are no expectations as to how you are usually, which makes it attractive to people,” Liz said. “You can dance, you can wear what you want, you can drink as much as you want or as little as you want and just act how you want to because there are no expectations.”
While Liz has not found that many of her peers go clubbing, Charlie, in contrast, said he is shocked to see how many high schoolers have started going to clubs.
Recently, he said he has seen an increase in younger students, especially female sophomores, going clubbing.
17 percent of upper school students have been to a nightclub, according to a Chronicle poll of 334 students.
Jamie* ’19 is not one of those students. She said she hasn’t had any desire to go to a club in the past and does not think she will want to go to one in the close future.
“There’s a lot that goes into going to a club, and a club environment would just stress me out,” Jamie said. “If I’m doing something on the weekend, I want it to be relaxing and carefree and not something that’s going to get me more worked up.”
Instead of going clubbing, Jamie said she would rather do other activities with her friends on the weekends that are not as risky as clubbing and offer an opportunity to bond with friends, including going out to lunch, shopping or going to parties.
“I think parties are a great way to not take anything too seriously and just hang out with my friends,” Jamie said. “They’re honestly a great way to destress, have fun and be a normal teenager.”
*Names have been changed